Hi everyone! It’s hard to believe this is our tenth newsletter! This will be somewhat shorter than newsletters of late because we’ve had less time since the last one.
Although we’ve been out only 4 times this month (all at Forests for the World and some of them only for a couple of hours), this January has not been bad, give that we often have much cloud, ice fog, and bitter cold at this time of year. As a matter of fact, it’s been downright mild and pleasant at times. Our last session (Saturday Jan 23) was quite popular with 5 telescopes being set up over the evening.
Why not consider coming out next time? The site is quite convenient – to get there, drive out to Foothills Blvd (between 5th and 15th), drive up Cranbrook Hill Road, make a left at the top of the hill, and drive 1.6 km to the end. We do welcome people new to observing – you do not need to own a telescope! Moreover, some one will take the time to show you some things in the sky, get you started, etc. On clear nights, we will attempt to reach our members through the phoning “tree” – please see the revised copy enclosed this month – but in any case, feel free to phone any of your executive. Hope to see you out next time!
We haven’t been using the observatory of late and that’s a shame since our 24″ telescope appears to be ideal (awesome?) for astrophotography. Your executive is determined to change this. Needed improvements to the instrument are being planned as well as the completion of our sensitizing tank. We also hope to complete our Moon shutter soon so that full-frame 4″ x 5″ negatives of the Moon may be taken. For the 35 mm format, we will be buying adapter rings for the popular cameras so that you too may take some easy astrophotos. [Let us know what kind of camera you have.]
Another thing we hope to do is develop film at TMO – that way we’ll be able to see if we’re doing things right, on the spot. Why not plan on joining us?
WHAT’S GOING ON IN THE SKY
- Jupiter, Venus and Mercury make a fine show just after sunset. Jupiter we’ve seen for a while – it’s still quite high in the sky at sunset. Venus is the next (very) bright object in an arc down to the southwest. You have to be quick to catch Mercury, though – it’s visible only from about 5 to 6 PM further down the arc, near the horizon. You can use an ordinary pair of binoculars, or your naked eye (when you know where to look). You’ll see little detail with Venus and Mercury, though, since they’re both in the “blob” (gibbous) stage. It’s reputed that Copernicus never did see Mercury …
- There are a couple of bright asteroids visible: Vesta and Ampridite in Cancer and Gemini. There is a finder chart in January’s Sky and Telescope.
- Other good objects to look at are the old reliables: Orion Nebula, the open clusters in Auriga, the Double Cluster in Perseus, the Crab Nebula in Taurus. At our next star party, we can show them to you or, better still, show you how to find them for yourself.
Wednesday, February 3 at 7:30 PM at the College in room 2-223 (Physics Lab). We’ll show the concluding tape of the “Spaceflight” series. By the way, the Observer’s Handbooks have come in (finally!). Be sure to buy your own copy of this valuable guide: only $9 to members. [Note: some of you reserved a copy last fall – if you can’t make it to the meeting, be sure to let a member of our executive know.] Hope to see you there!
Bob Nelson, President
Happy new year, everyone!!! Let’s hope that the new year will be the best yet, astronomically speaking.
There were unexpected developments with our Forests for the World (FFTW) site. Steve Marynovich, the father of our member Rod, heard of our activities up there and asked if there was anything that the FFTW committee could do for us. The outcome was that Gail and Warren went to a meeting and conveyed some of our suggestions. Since then, one bothersome tree was cut down (!) and plans are afoot to pour concrete pads for us in the spring. It’s pretty nice to get this kind of support. And thank you Gail and Warren.
In reply to my letter, I received a nice letter from Geoff Kennedy, President of the Calgary Centre of the RASC(cals), enclosing their latest newsletter, The Starseeker. We’re now on each other’s mailing lists and the improved communication should help us all. Thanks Geoff.
The new credit astronomy course got under way last week at the College and appears to be a going concern with over 15 students. The Observer’s Handbooks have been ordered but there is no word of late. I have sent a deposit of $50 Canadian for a 10.1″ f/4.5 mirror to:Counter Optical, Inc.
P.O. Box K
Idyllwild, CA 92349-1107
If you’re interested in an inexpensive LARGE telescope, why not send your money off too? Maybe in 8 or 10 months we can get together and assemble a flock (bushel, tribe?) of fine, inexpensive telescopes.
The new doors are now installed and almost complete (we are waiting for slightly more humane temperatures). Soon we will move the new generator up there and seriously plan to use the facility again. Top on our list is astrophotography.
RECENT EVENTS AT TMO
There have been no events of late. We have had a number of observing sessions at the Forests for the World area on Cranbrook – we called out the troops 3 times in December and yours truly went out an additional 2 times. We had a bumper time there this fall.
WHAT’S GOING ON IN THE SKY
- Jupiter is still prominent to the south but sets earlier. Good photos of it and the Orion Nebula should be possible using the 24″ telescope.
- Venus is visible in the south-eastern sky just after sunset – why not check it out with binoculars? mercury should be visible very soon in the evening sky very close to the Sun. Let’s get some photos!
- Comet Bradfield is still visible but fading as it moves away from the Sun. Look for it inside the square of Pegasus (upper part). Your editor got a picture of it last month. For ephemerides of other comets and the planets, consult the January edition of Sky and Telescope.
FEATURE ARTICLES – CLEANING EYEPIECES … by Bob Nelson
I cannot claim to be an expert at cleaning eyepieces, having done it only once (!) but these thoughts may be of interest. If anyone has any further ideas, s/he would be welcome to respond in this space.
Several weeks ago, I noticed that star images in my 13″ telescope seemed to be getting dim; indeed when I looked at the Moon, the scattered light was enormous. Upon inspection, I saw each eyepiece was covered in lint! (Keeping them in your coat pocket while observing is not good!) Something had to be done. Try my procedure:
Buy a box of Q-Tips and, at a camera store, but Kodak Film Cleaner (available on special order from W.D. West Camera) and a camel’s hair brush (with a squeeze bulb if possible). Find a desk lamp and clean workspace where you can examine each (outer) surface closely (and see any scratches, scum, etc). Unscrew the bottom barrel from each eyepiece.
Take the blower brush and attempt to blow or brush lightly any lint or other particles off the surface. Always use a light motion, never a grinding one. If that does not do, take a Q-Tip, dip it in the film cleaner and moisten the lens with it, swirling it around gently. Try to move any particles toward the edge, swirling the tip around. A backward rotation as you move the tip is perhaps best. Discard the Q-Tip. With a fresh Q-Tip, continue swirling to get rid of any scum. If necessary, use your breath on the lens (hhhohhh!) to add any moisture. In contact with the lens, spin the Q-Tip between your fingers. At all times, watch for any scratches that might be developing. Discard Q-Tips frequently. Eventually, the lens should be gleaming. Do not worry about any minor dust that remains; it will not hurt the image.
Prevention is better than cure! (This is advice I’ll have to follow myself.) Try to find a way to store and use your eyepieces that will minimize dirt and lint getting on them. Make an eyepiece case from a small commercial cassette case or whatever. Add foam inserts with holes cut out for each eyepiece. (I can help you do this.) During use, perhaps a handy eyepiece holder next to your focusser is the answer. Whatever your methods, clean eyepieces are much more enjoyable!!
WHEN THE STARS DON’T SHINE FOR YOU… By Bob & Paul Ingraham
The year is 1581. Galileo Galilei studies science at Collegium Prince Georgicus in British Columbia. He scarcely gives the night sky a glance because it’s not dark enough in the summer, his toes freeze in the winter, and in the fall it’s too cloudy. What really interests Galileo is flight. He makes a pair of wings, jumps off the cutbanks and drowns in the Nechako Riverum.
The year is 1987. Astrology 101 students at the College of New Caledonium listen attentively to their professor, Father Bob Nelsonicus: “You have seen that the greatest astrologer of all time, Ptolemy of Alexandria, showed us that the Earth is the centre of the Universe and that the Sun and the stars are placed on great crystalline spheres which slowlu rotate around it.”
* * *
Perhaps Galileo wouldn’t have let the terrible climate and lousy viewing conditions in “Prince Georgicus” kill his appetite for knowledge of the cosmos, and thereby alter the course of history, but we modern-day astronomers too often let these same things kill our interest in astronomy. Too many clouds, too much arctic air, and too many long summer days often cause us to watch TV instead of stars. Here are a few suggestions that might help when geography and climate conspire against astronomy.
With summer taken care of, how about those depressing fall months when a thick blanket of airborne sludge defeats any observing activity? We advise armchair astronomy. A few hours with reference books, star charts, or the latest issue of Astronomy or Sky and Telescope will pay dividends when the skies do clear. We became aware of this fall’s Comet Bradfield while browsing the pages of Astronomy magazine on a cloudy night. The comet became the centrepiece of our next star party.
You might turn your dreams into any number of astronomy projects in the basement or darkroom. Telescopes aren’t difficult to build, and a star-tracking platform for a 35 mm camera is child’s play. Stars will shine on the cloudiest night if you have a darkroom and a few latent star images waiting for development. If you don’t have a darkroom, start planning one. Bathrooms do work!
Finally, what about those marvelously clear winter nights when the only movement outside is the downward slide of the temperature? Cold can be intimidating, but won’t be if you wear layer clothing with lots of wool or other insulation. Feet pose a problem for many people; toes that go numb are aren’t fun. In order to create a lasting relationship between you and you toes, wear felt-lined snowboots with insulated insoles and wool socks. Some local astronomers even wear electric socks. Hands are another problem. Loose wool mittens that can be slipped on and often easily are my choice. Avoid gloves at all cost, unless you are a masochist. Once you have defeated the cold, you’ll see stars like very few people in North America can see them from light- and air-polluted megalopolises.
Because of our geographical location, Prince George will never be an ideal site for astronomy. Galileo, had he been born here, hopefully would have had the good sense to move to Arizona. But we are here. With a little ingenuity, the impossible nights will pass more quickly and the starry nights will rank among the most memorable of our lives.
Wednesday, Jan 13 at 7:30 PM in room 2-223 (Physics Lab) at CNC. Your editor will present a videotape on the U.S. space programme and Jim Livingstone will talk on the featured constellation – Cygnus. See you there!!!!!
Bob Nelson, President